My Garden Journal 2023 January

A new month and a new year for my garden journal, and the cold wet and windy weather continues as before.

Muscari were the stars of the first page of this month, one of my favourite early bulbs. Over the last few years we have managed to find a few more unusual ones.

I began the year by writing, “January 2023, a new month and a new year in our Avocet garden. With our climate changing as it is, it is difficult to guess what this year will bring. the weather presented to us last year made gardening more difficult than ever before. The heavy rain and strong winds carried over from December into the first day of the new year. On the second we awoke to a bright dry day, the first for some time.

I took advantage of the break in the weather to plant the last spring bulbs, which is weeks late. We had several packs of muscari to plant, one of my favourite flowering bulbs. I started with a mixed pack called ‘Blueberries and Cream’ all 50 of them. Then I planted a white called ‘White Magic’, 30 pale-flowered ‘Valerie Finnis’ and finally35 bicoloured M. ‘latifolium’.”

Wildlife featured on the opposite page where I wrote, “Wildlife enlightens our patch at this time of the year, driven in by the weather and drawn in by the plants provided for it. Wildlife lifts the gloomiest of days through colour, movement and song. Blackbirds and their cousins the thrushes busily strip colourful berries from the trees and shrubs we grow especially for them. We regularly check stored apples and some are always damaged or show signs of rot. These are thrown onto lawns and borders. These birds soon finish them off with a little help from wood mice, voles and shrews.

The hedgehog feeding stations are visited very infrequently at this time of year. In milder periods they will go wandering to visit and enjoy the water and dry food we supply for them.

When working in the garden we come across worms near the surface , and also discover frogs of all ages and sizes on the move. Soon we should have spawn in some of the ponds.

Bird sounds change now, their calls becoming songs which are far more cheerful and uplifting. Also some birds begin to explore nestboxes and natural nest sites to ensure they get the best. Bluetits and robins have already taken possession of boxes.

When gardening we often find ourselves among flocks of birds, usually titmice and finches. I love being in the garden when a flock of long tailed tits arrive, surrounding me with gentle calls and beautiful colours. A group of these ‘lollipop birds’ is called a ‘Zephyr’, which means a soft gentle breeze – so apt!”

Over the page I feature catkins and on the opposite page I take a look at garden jobs we were involved in.

I noted,“January is the month when catkins appear on our betula and salix, birches and willows. In the countryside all around us hazels are dripping with their chartreuse coloured catkins.”

I then shared ten photos of some of our catkins. The top row shows Salix gracilistylus ‘Mount Aso’.

Next I shared two photos of a close relative of ‘Mount Aso’ called ‘Salix gracilistyla melanostachys’.

Then two photos of Betula albosinensis ‘Chinese Ruby’.

I will finish looking at catkins with three photos of another Betula, B. ‘Hergest’.

On the opposite page to these catkins was a page about working in the garden. I noted that, “Although January doesn’t often present us with decent gardening weather, we still wrap up warm and enjoy time outside! It is so good for us physically and mentally.”

We also cut down our old Prunus autumnalis which had died in the summer. We had our daughter Jo and her partner Ed to do the heavy work.

We can now turn over to two pages featuring trees with peeling bark, the first page being all betulas. I noted that, “Some of the ornamental trees we grow in our garden were chosen for their interesting bark, colour and texture. Betulas do this for us more than any other. But they also have another aspect of beauty for us to enjoy, peeling bark.”

Below; Betula albosinensis ‘Kanzu’.

Below; Betula albosinensis ‘China Ruby’

And below; Betula albosinensis septentrionalis

On the opposite page, the penultimate page for this month, I look at another two betulas with peeling bark plus a prunus that does the same.

Below; Betula ‘Hergest’

Below; Betula utilis jacquemontii ‘Snow Queen’

Below; The odd one out – Prunus serrula

So now we reach the final page for January which features more garden tasks. I noted that, “Whenever the weather allowed, which was very infrequent, we dressed up against cold and wet and spent time in the garden. We never knew what the weather would throw at us – rain, sleet, hail, snow, howling winds. Sometimes several of these would arrive on the same day.

We top dressed trees with shredded autumn leaves and finished off the board between the bark path and the gravel of the new eating area.

Jude planted some beautiful cyclamen given to us by gardening friends who came for lunch.

Ian cut down perennials in the Chicken Garden and we checked all tree stakes and ties.

All too soon January came to an end but hopefully it has taken the rotten weather with it.


Christmas at Attingham Part 2 : Outside

After enjoying exploring the inside of the hall followed by some tasty coffees, we took off for a wander around the ‘Mile Walk’, the shortest trail in the parkland.

The sky was continuously changing which was reflected in the weather as illustrated in the two photos below.

We knew there were a few Christmas trees to find out here too.

The tree above was on the grass area within the walled garden where we also noticed these sedum seed heads in the borders. The gardeners working in the woodland areas have created some most original wooden reindeer. Just outside the walled garden near to the bothy we discovered another tree.

As we were enjoying our walk we came across cones from last year’s crop, a mahonia flowering away and giving off a sweet scent and some rose buds fighting the weather and hoping to open up.

We were pleased to see buds forming on trees and shrubs in readiness for spring action. They have delicate beauty and suggest promises for the future in the woodland.

The woodland provided some winter food for wildlife and some colour for us in the berries.


Christmas at Attingham Part 1: Inside

We booked ourselves in to visit Attingham Hall just before Christmas to see what the employees and volunteers had created to celebrate the season. This year the theme was based on the craftsmen involved in making and maintaining the hall, so we were looking forward to seeing what they had achieved decorating lots of Christmas trees and other decorations in each room. After exploring the inside we went for a wander round the one-mile walk with a detour through the walled garden.

So first off we entered the hall and handed in our little wooden tokens decorated with an acorn and oak leaves which proved we had booked our time slot. This first tree graced the entrance hall, which led us into a room with amazing table top decorations.

In the next room a huge glistening chandelier reflected the shape of the tree behind it.

This little tree was made out of pasta and sprayed gold. The third photo here is of the tree celebrating the work of artists. in the row of photos below different artists were celebrated, the upholsterer and photographer.

These two pictures illustrate the craft of the clockmaker.

This dramatic staircase with equally unusual ceilings above again was all about craftspeople who originally would have worked in the hall keeping it in top condition.

Just a few more photos of the remaining rooms to share what we saw before a fire alarm shortened our exploration of the rooms, luckily a false alarm but still evacuation was the result.

We took advantage of the alarm and evacuation to return to the coach House Cafe where we enjoyed coffees before taking off for a wander around the ‘Mile Walk’. This will be the subject of my next post.


My Garden Journal December 2022

This is my final visit to my garden journal for 2022, and we shall look at what is happening here in our garden in the last month of the year.

My first page I looked at how the strange weather this autumn and early winter has upset and confused some plants. I wrote, “Even the most optimistic of gardeners know that December means that winter is here. However this year many plants aren’t so sure.”

I shared eight photos as illustrations.

On the next two pages I shared photos photos taken as I took a tour of the garden and wrote, “These two pages take us on a journey around the garden searching for long views and interesting plant communities to give an opportunity to see different interesting spots.”

Onto the next two pages and the first shows flowers found in a December wander around our Avocet garden. I wrote, “Take a wander around the garden. It is amazing how much colour here is provided by flowers.”

On the opposite page after a look at colour in the garden I shared a sketch of seed heads using very fine drawing pens which I entitled,

“The delicate dried stems and old seed pods.

Over onto the next pair of pages and on the left I considered birches and opposite more seed heads and dried stems.

Concerning the birches I noted that, “My favourite tree family is Betula, the birches. They are interesting and impressive all year with pleated shiny bright green spring foliage alongside golden hanging catkins. Airy canopies with rustling foliage through the summer are supported on colourful trunks with peeling bark, and then buttercup yellow autumn colours catch low autumn rays. This foliage falls to reveal a filigree of open branch work.”

I then featured my favourite of all the birches Betula albosinensis septentrionalis, in nine photos.

On the opposite page I returned to look at different seed heads and stems, but this time for my sketches I used very fine fibre pens in grey tones.

I finished off my December entries with a double page spread featuring some of our December tasks and finally winter foliage.

Concerning the month’s tasks I wrote, “Throughout December we completely re-developed our ‘Secret Garden’, removing all the plants around the borders and enlarging the central bark chip area. The borders were made much narrower and log roll edging re-fitted. We replaced bark as a surface and moved over to golden flint chippings. It will become a social area with a large scaffold board table and benches.”

On the opposite page my final entry for 2022 is all about foliage in winter, about which I wrote, “Foliage comes to the fore during winter as there far fewer flowers performing.With foliage we can observe so much variety in shape, texture, pattern and colour.”


Happy New Year 2023

Let us hope that for us gardeners and nature lovers that 2023 will be a little easier and perhaps more positive. I decided that perhaps the best way to see in the new year would be to take a wander around our Avocet garden and look out for promises and clues for the future.

Winter flowering shrubs and climbers are always so special and we always look forward to them blooming, keeping an eye out for the first buds to show colour and the first to come out fully.

The earliest flowering shrub to show colour in its buds is always a witch hazel called ‘Jelena’, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’. Early on in December the buds fatten and split to show a slither of orange and by the middle of the month the first flowers burst out. It is the longest flowering of our hamamelis sharing its bright orange flowers for weeks on end allowing us also to absorb its fruity scent.

The second shrub to show colour in its flower buds is the very early flowering Daphne bhuloa ‘Jacqueline Postill’ and its buds begin to show pink colouring around Christmas time. This is one of the most beautiful scents of winter and it can be enjoyed from far away. It will stay in flower for weeks on end.

The earliest flowering climbers of all are always clematis, with mostly white or cream coloured blooms. These two both climb up our Acer refinerve which grows in the centre of the Winter Border which is a good winter tree because it sports snake skin patterned bark. When these clematis buds open they will reveal waxy petals and emit delicate scents.

A further wander will discover other flower buds waiting to open. The two below are on the left Cornus mas and on the right Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’.

Below are two more shrubs coming into leaf but we will have to wait until the summer to be able to appreciate their flowers, Hypericum inodorum ‘Magical Universe’ on the left and Buddleia lindleyana on the right.

Whenever we are gardening in December and January we will be on the lookout for the leaves of early flowering bulbs. So new year is a special time for looking forward in the garden and finding so much positivity and so many promises of delights to come.


Happy Christmas to You Hollies and Ivies

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Christmas, hoping it is a great day for you all.

Two plants associated most with this day are the holly and the ivy and we enjoy having these plants in our garden especially during the winter months.

Let’s start with hollies as we only have a few of them growing here. We have dozens of different ivies. Both hollies and ivies are much loved by birds especially in the winter months when the berries will feed thrushes and blackcaps. The flowers of ivy appearing so late in the year are important for late flying bees and wasps. They also provide shelter and nest sites in spring and summer.

The hollies below are very different to each other. The lollipop trained holly is one of a pair either side of the raised pond and rill. The second one is our native holly which grows in our native hedge. The third is very different as it grows as a sphere and only reach 18 inches or so tall. Its foliage is multi-coloured and changes with the seasons.

We have so many ivies that I have selected just a few of my favourites. Naturally the one most appreciated is our native Hedera helix and most of our collection are H. helix cultivars and selections.


Acers at Avocet in Autumn

We grow lots of different acers here in our Avocet garden, from small slow growing shrubs up to specimen trees. We grow them for the textures, patterns and colours on their stems and trunks as well as their spring and autumn colour changes. We give them extra character by pruning them to raise their canopies.

Let us now look back at this post I wrote in autumn but I am sharing it now as most leaves have dropped from the majority of our acers.

All the following acers are forms of “Acer palmatum”.

I will now share some photos looking more close up at foliage to illustrate how each has its own character.

This particular acer is really striking with its deep green leaves which turn firstly to deep red and then slowly brighter on its way to orange and yellow. It is called ‘Acer seiryu’.

To finish off looking at “Acer palmatum” here are a few more photos.

But not all of our acers are shrubs, some are smallish trees. Here are a selection of those in our garden, starting with Acer rufinerve on the left a snakebark with great spring and autumn foliage as well as colourful flowers and seed pods. The second photo shows our native acer, Field Maple or ‘Acer campestre’ and the third is a small slow-growing tree ‘Acer pectinata’ with colourful branches and buds.

Another snakebark acer is “Acer dividii ‘George Forrest’ “, a beautiful but very slow-growing tree and a fine acer to finish off this post.


Early Autumn at Oakgates Nursery and Garden

Oakgates is one of our favourite nurseries and we visit frequently, at least once a fortnight. We love the coffee shop and its cakes, the quality of their plants and also the garden which we are free to wander around. It is a garden that has high points all year round.

Around the entrance to the plant sales areas there are so many salvias flowering away happily and we see even more sitting on the outside benches enjoying coffee and cakes and in the borders of the display gardens. Here are just some of them.

There were many more flowering plants looking good on our wanderings. The first plant featured below was a mystery to us both as we could never remember seeing it before and sadly there was no label to be found. A mystery!

The flowering perennials that we expect to be able to appreciate at this time of year are the asters, (whatever the botanists want to call them they are still asters to us and we believe most gardeners too!).

As well as herbaceous perennials flowering well several trees and shrubs are giving us colour to admire either through flowers or berries.

And of course we mustn’t forget the power of foliage texture, pattern, structure and colour in autumn too.

I shall finish this post ref our early autumn visit to the gardens at Oakgate Nurseries, with some general shots of the garden to help indicate its special qualities.

We will be back again soon and perhaps take some photos of the gardens in early winter to see haw things are progressing.


We find a nearby mini-arboretum

Isn’t it a treat when you discover a garden so close to home behind a house we drive past a few times a week passing through a neighbouring group of houses. We did this in mid-October when we discovered that a new National Garden Scheme, being mentioned in an NGS email.

Thus we travelled for a few minutes to find this neighbouring garden which was described as having a small but fine collection of trees. It really did turn out to be an interesting mini-arboretum.

As we walked up the front drive we started to see what a treat we were going to be in for.

We then skirted the house and entered the back garden where we were greeted by a a pond surrounded by colourful shrubs and small trees.

We always enjoy seeing gardens which show the gardeners have a sense of humour.

I will share some more of my photos of the back garden in the following gallery. Enjoy!

We had noticed a few interesting trees in the front garden as we walked up the drive so returned to have a close up look before we made our short journey home.

I shall finish by looking at a trio of one of our favourite trees, gingko biloba.

A great little arboretum right on our doorstep!


My Garden Journal 2022 November

November sees us well into autumn but the garden seems to continue to be confused with trees unable to decide whether to colour up, drop leaves or stay green on their branches.

Looking at the first two pages, I considered the effects of autumn on trees and shrubs and on the opposite page I shared photos of some of our hesperanthas.

Concerning trees and shrubs in autumn I wrote, “November sees autumn well established in our garden, but our trees and shrubs of deciduous character are confused about whether to change foliage colour or not.”

Some have turned red, others just becoming yellow but others are still completely green.

The opposite page is where I shared photos of some of our hesperanthas, where I noted that “We have several varieties of hesperantha now established throughout our borders. They are currently flowering well, glowing in any dull light.”

Over the page to the next double page spread I looked at the importance of reds in the November garden. I wrote, “In the first week of November the most noticeable colour around the garden is red, the reds of foliage, flowers and fruits.”

I then shared selection of photos of red features in our garden at that time.